Working

While I was pregnant with Calvin I considered becoming a stay-at-home mom. I don’t remember what my reasoning was, but it was probably something along the lines of “we can afford it, it’s good for the kids, so why not.” At the time, Jaeger was very supportive of this, his own mom stayed home with the kids and it seemed normal to him. However, my mom thought it was a bad idea for my personality and she talked me out of it. She told me that she felt like her brain was rotting the two years she spent home after my younger brother was born. After thinking about it more, I realized I didn’t have to make this decision before Calvin was born. If working and having a kid was too much, I could always quit later. Instead, I negotiated going down to 20 hours a week and working from home1. Continuing to work was definitely the right decision. I’m sure my postpartum depression would have been even worse if I hadn’t been able to mentally escape at work.

A little over a year before Julian was born I went up to 32 hours a week. Our library system was preparing for a major ILS migration and I, and my manager, felt like it would be best if I had more time to devote to the migration. I thought it would be hard going from 20 to 32 hours a week. It wasn’t, it was easier. I felt less rushed during my work day and felt I could take longer to make better decisions.

Jaeger and I decided to have another child. I looked at our personal schedule, we were planning to move overseas in the next couple of years, and the implementation timeline at work and came up with a target date range for conception. If I still wasn’t pregnant at the end of our target window we would reconsider whether it made sense to keep trying to get pregnant. I was lucky and Julian decided to be conceived right on schedule.

Meanwhile, our work implementation kept plodding mostly forward. Because Calvin threatened to be born preterm I wanted the ILS implementation over before Julian hit viability so I could drop everything if he ended up in the NICU for months. This provided very strong motivation for me to keep the project on track. I’m quite sure our vendor got tired of me telling them that I managed to conceive on schedule so they should be able to deliver the product on schedule. Julian was born at 41 weeks. In retrospect, I didn’t realize how much post-migration clean-up there would be so I was very fortunate that Julian agreed to wait till he was full-term.

I had told my manager I intended to take 3 months of maternity leave. At about 4 weeks postpartum things were going so well (i.e. nicely boring) that I was tempted to come back early. However, I didn’t have childcare lined up for going back early and then Julian went through a hard period so I did end up staying mostly offline from work the whole 3 months2.

In July, about a month after I came back from maternity leave, Qualcomm announced they would be doing layoffs. They told their investors before they told their employees. Very tacky. No doubt there were some regulatory issues around the announcement but surely there could have been a way to coordinate that better. In any case, Qualcomm announced layoffs but said they wouldn’t publish the layoff list till late September. Our plan had been to move to Taiwan after Julian turned 1 and Calvin finished school for the year. If Jaeger got laid off it would potentially either force us to go through the savings we had for the international move or move early. Neither situation was ideal but we were fortunate that all we had to worry about was opportunity, not where the money for food and mortgage was going to come from.

Possibly coincidentally, a Google recruiter choose the day Qualcomm announced layoffs to send their semi-annual email asking Jaeger if he would be interested in interviewing with Google. Jaeger didn’t want to work for Google, he wanted to move internationally. However, he decided that interviewing at Google would be an interesting interlude while waiting to see who Qualcomm laid off.

Long story a little shorter, Qualcomm did lay him off and Google offered Jaeger a job in their San Francisco office. We had visited San Francisco several times and had been impressed with how diverse the city is. I talked to my manager, who talked to HR, and they thought if we moved I could still telecommute and work for the district. After a lot more waffling, Jaeger decided to take the job with Google and push back our international plans for another couple of years.

Life got complicated. In February Jaeger left for San Francisco while I stayed behind with the kids and our au pair so Calvin could finish school. Right about this time I learned that I may not be able to keep my job after all. After looking into it more, HR decided there would be complications with me working from home in San Francisco because I would be classed as a California employee. I’m a little vague what all the implications would have been but among other things they would have had to withhold California taxes for me. This was not something they were willing to do. At one point, I was told that this would probably have been easier if I had moved overseas instead of to another state. My manager was quite upset and spent months trying to find a way around it. However, she was not able to find a cost-effective option that HR felt would legally cover them. It was too late to back out from Google so I was going to be out of a job once I moved to San Francisco.

As soon as I realized there was uncertainty about my job I started looking for interesting jobs I could do from San Francisco. I knew I was too specialized but I hadn’t done anything about it because I was secretly hoping to be able to keep my job forever while wandering the world. Unfortunately, my specialization was now coming back to haunt me.

I applied for several jobs but most of them didn’t feel like a good fit and I was fortunate to be able to be picky. Then I saw that Mountain View Public Library had a job opening that sounded very similar to what I currently did. The timing was a little awkward. The huge ILS user conference, handily in San Francisco, was in just a week or two and the job already had dates set for when they would interview candidates which was 2 weeks after the user conference. Obviously they only expected local candidates to apply. A week before the interview date I was called and invited to come for an interview. Fortunately, Jaeger was able to rearrange things to stay in Colorado while I went to California for a couple of days.

The first interview involved three people who had a preset list of questions they had to ask. It was a pretty easy interview. However, I thought it was odd that none of the people who interviewed me worked for Mountain View Public Library, or even the City of Mountain View. Instead, they were librarians from surrounding libraries. I assume this was to try to prevent any appearance of bias. However, from my perspective this was not helpful as they did not know the answers to any of my questions. So, the process allowed them to shortlist me but did not give me enough info to shortlist them. I was invited back for a second interview, this with the actual librarians at Mountain View. Everyone I talked to was very nice and seemed like fun people to work with.

A couple of weeks after the second interview I received an email from HR saying Mountain View was still interested in me but they needed to verify my degrees and pass a background check before the process could continue. This sounded pretty straight forward, though I did think the background check a little weird. As requested, I filled out my school information and then dutifully took the background check form down to the Boulder police station to get fingerprinted. Then I mailed the form back. This was the beginning of The Long Wait.

The first problem was they couldn’t get confirmation of my MLS. I never learned what the problem was but I blame someone either misspelling my name or not knowing what to do with hyphenation. In the end, Mountain View accepted a scan of my transcript. The next hurdle was my background check. I had sent back the fingerprint form via 1st class mail. I have never had any problems with the USPS. In fact, sometimes they managed to deliver mail to me when almost everything on the address was wrong. However, two weeks had passed since I had sent off the fingerprints and Mountain View still hadn’t received it. Mountain View sent me another copy of the form and requested I send it back with a tracking number this time. So I went for a second time for fingerprinting and emailed Mountain View that it should arrive on Saturday. As luck would have it, my original fingerprint form arrived with an apology note from the USPS attached the next day. Mountain View submitted the fingerprint form and we started waiting and waiting and waiting some more.

My last day working for High Plains Library District was May 20. Leaving HPLD was harder than leaving anything else in Colorado. I had been working there for almost twelve years and worked with a bunch of fantastic people.

My last week in Colorado was spent running around doing useful stuff. On May 30 I flew out to San Francisco with the kids and our au pair. Jaeger stayed behind to oversee the rest of the moving process. Our furniture showed up a week later. Jaeger’s mom was helping out with childcare and also helped tremendously with the unpacking. I spent the next several weeks unpacking and trying to fit everything into our smaller rental house.

Every so often I would get an update from Mountain View saying they were still waiting for the background check to come back.

Before I left my High Plains manager had expressed interest in hiring me for specific jobs on a contract basis. Since nothing was happening on the Mountain View front, I decided to explore setting myself up as an independent contractor. San Francisco requires small businesses, including independent contractors, to get a business license. The problem with the business license was that the “business address” was publicly searchable. My address is probably pretty easy to find but I didn’t think I should just give it to the public. So I spent some time getting an alternate address for business purposes. Eventually I got everything lined up and High Plains had me work on a couple of small projects.

Since I still hadn’t heard back from Mountain View I started exploring other job options. There weren’t any interesting librarian jobs in my area. I started considering what types of jobs I could do outside of librarianship and applied to a couple of options. By this point the unpacking was mostly done and even with job searching and contract work I wasn’t as busy as normal. This turned out to be unhealthy for me and eventually I realized I was getting depressed.

Once I realized I had a problem I decided I should prioritize exercise more and also find some personal development projects. I had been contemplating learning Ruby, Perl, PHP, or Python for many years. All of these are used within the library world but there isn’t one used significantly more than the others. Basically, everyone uses their favorite language which means we don’t work well with each other. As a result, I had never figured out which language would be most useful. However, when I was job searching one of the interesting sounding areas was data analytics. Many of these job postings had Python as either a required or desired qualification. I had just come up with a plan for learning Python when I got a call back from Mountain View.

Whoever Mountain View submitted my background check to did not like how Boulder had filled out the fingerprint form so they were rejecting it, 59 days after it was first submitted. Since I was now in California Mountain View asked if I could come down and get fingerprinted by their police department. I agreed and went down the next Monday. They thanked me for my patience and said results should be back within 10 days but they would request it be fast-tracked. I nodded politely but was dubious. Much to my surprise I got a call the next day with a verbal offer. After a week or so of negotiations I accepted the job. Somewhat ironically, the day after I accepted the job I was contacted for a interview with one of the other companies I had applied for.

I’ve been working at the Mountain View Public Library for two weeks and am pretty happy. So far all my coworkers have been really nice and my manager is wonderfully organized. I am really impressed with the amount of effort and thought she put into getting me up to speed. The biggest downside at the moment is my commute. It takes a little less than 1 hour to drive down and a little more than 1 hour to drive back. I don’t mind the driving, it’s actually really nice to spend 2 hours every day by myself3. However, it does make child care much more complicated4 and all things being equal there’s other stuff I would prefer to be able to do during that time period. I have contemplated taking BART and then Caltrain so I could work on other stuff while commuting. However, I just can’t fit that extra 40 minutes it would take everyday into my schedule.

Overall, I have been very lucky with how everything turned out. I felt a little adrift not getting an offer before the background check was complete but it was nice to have time to unpack the house. I have also learned that I really like the structure and mental stimulation of a full time job. In addition, I need to work more on procuring skills outside my current specialty. I either need to get experience supervising others and go up the managerial path or focus on improving and expanding my tech skills. For now, I’m not sure what path my career will take but I am happy to once again be working in an environment I love.

  1. This is why it’s nice to work for a while before getting pregnant. If you’re valuable, and your work realizes that, people are willing to do a lot to keep you.
  2. Excepting the occasional email, of course 🙂
  3. Another interesting perk of driving is being able to oogle Google’s self-driving cars. I usually see at least one on the way to work and one on the way home. One day I had a Tesla in front of me and a self-driving car beside me and I felt like I was living in the future.
  4. I am away from home 10 1/2 hours a day so we have to hire extra help so our au pair doesn’t go over her 45 hours/week maximum.

One thought on “Working

  1. Jaeger

    Welcome back to the land of the Internet. (This comment can refer either to your blog post, or the fact that your site was down for 48 hours due to an unscheduled server migration, or that I’m now testing whether the upgrade works.)

    Reply

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